“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
This ancient adage is familiar to all of us, and we’ve all been there and done that. Our ideas are fantastic, but our failure to properly organize ourselves leads us down a route we’d rather avoid.
This is true in many aspects of life, but it is especially true when it comes to our nutrition.
We are continually bombarded with messages about eating healthy and eating “well.” We are compelled to consider how we measure up to established norms of healthy living in publications, billboards, and when we visit our doctor’s office, whether in terms of our weight, BMI, or cholesterol levels.
When we go out to eat, we are now presented with the calorie and fat content of our meals, which might make us feel awful about our decisions.
Finally, we all understand the need to properly fuel our bodies in order to be healthy and powerful. Thousands of studies have proven a clear relationship between eating properly and decreasing our risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes over many decades.
We all require various things from our diets— – and our food—depending on whether we are overweight, underweight, or at an “ideal” weight.
Being better organized is one thing that we can all benefit from. When it comes to our diets, this means taking the time to establish a weekly meal plan that is diverse and nutritious.
Meal planning may be adaptable and can accommodate any dietary restrictions you may have.
Organizing your meal plan will help you feel in control of your diet and schedule, whether you’re attempting to lose weight, develop muscle, or deal with food intolerance.
We’ve compiled a comprehensive overview of the advantages of meal planning to help you get started living your best life right away.
1. It’ll save you time
You’re more likely to eat fast food or order takeout if you’re constantly late in the morning or find yourself leaving work in the evening with a grumbling stomach and no energy to prepare. After all, who doesn’t like a tasty pizza delivered to their door after a hard day?
Unfortunately, the combination of tiredness and hunger is to blame for many of the poor eating choices we make on a daily basis.
Taking the effort to make a detailed meal plan eliminates the guesswork of deciding what to cook and where to get the necessary goods.
Though dedicating one afternoon or evening every week to meal planning and buying seven days’ worth of meals may not be the most enjoyable activity, it will help you stay on track and in control.
Furthermore, combining meal planning and grocery shopping with real meal preparation can give you an empowering start to the week, knowing that you have excellent, wholesome food on hand.
Start by thinking about the meals you’d like to make, as well as how extra portions can be stored in the freezer or used in a different way at lunchtime.
After that, prepare a shopping list, making sure to check your pantry and cabinets for any essential goods you may be missing.
You’ll never run out of something you need if you take inventory on a regular basis, and you’ll save time by not having to travel to the shop for only one or two products (which will eventually grow into three, four, or ten…).
When you arrive home with your groceries, perform some basic fruit and vegetable preparation. To keep cleaned berries, diced fruit, and frozen bananas for smoothies, use containers.
Dice onions and garlic, as well as any other veggies you want to add to your meals, such as carrots, cucumber, broccoli, peppers, sprouts, or tomatoes.
To keep them fresh, store them in sealed boxes or bags. Spending time on this means you’ll have everything you need to put a dinner together in minutes, even if you can’t cook the entire meal ahead of time.
Last but not least, if you’re looking for a way to save time, try investing in a slow cooker. Slow cookers are available in a wide range of pricing ranges, and you can have one delivered to your home in as little as 24 hours.
There are thousands of easy slow cooker recipes available, which operate by cooking food at a low temperature for up to 12 hours. In a slow cooker, combine chicken, beef, or lamb with root vegetables, stock, and dried herbs. When you arrive home from work, your house will smell warm and inviting, and supper will be ready in no time.
2. It’ll save you money
Avoiding takeout and fast food stops during the week can not only keep your waistline slim, but it will also save you money.
Bloomberg reported in December 2018 that, while fast food has traditionally been seen as a low-cost alternative, pricing increases at Taco Bell and McDonald’s have brought them into line with current (healthier) farm-to-table businesses.
While McDonald’s offers a $6 meal that includes a burger, fries, drink, and pie, other menu items can cost as much as $6 or even $9 without any extra side orders. Taco Bell-filled burritos cost approximately $5, which is more expensive than menu selections at independent, local Mexican restaurants in several parts of the United States.
While so-called “fast-casual” restaurants like Chipotle and Panera Bread may provide fresher, healthier alternatives that are more in line with the healthy eating philosophy, they aren’t necessarily better for your budget.
Fast food is consumed by almost one-third of all people in the United States every day, so it’s no surprise that this sector of the economy is expanding.
Home-cooked versions of your take-out favorites, on the other hand, maybe just as – if not more – pleasant, and although fast food costs continue to climb, market data shows that cooking at home is actually becoming less expensive.
If you love hot soup and a sandwich or a fresh burrito bowl for lunch, the good news is this: it’s easy and affordable to create these options at home.
Cooking a batch of soup or sautéing vegetables and chicken with spices is not only healthier (you can identify and source the ingredients yourself, with no additives, and use ingredients like olive oil and butter more sparingly), but it also allows you to make multiple servings from a single purchase.
With no extra fee for guac, that $9 you spent on a burrito bowl could easily provide 3 or 4 of your own bowls.
Meal planning also helps you save money in other ways. Have you ever observed that when you’re hungry, you spend more money at the grocery store?
That’s because businesses encourage you to buy more than you need with enticing snack products at the checkout and at the end of each aisle.
Making a meal plan and a comprehensive grocery list allows you to focus on only buying what you need, saving you money that you can save or spend elsewhere.
Following our suggestions for preparing and storing your fruit and vegetables for use will also help you get the most out of your shopping trip.
Use older veggies and fruit in soups or smoothies to save waste. Don’t rule out frozen fruit and veggies, though – they’re selected and frozen at their peak, have all of the vitamins and antioxidants of their fresh counterparts, and are usually considerably cheaper.
3. It can help you lose weight
Whatever the motive — a yearly physical, a summer beach vacation, or a medical issue – Time Magazine estimated that almost half of all Americans are actively attempting to reduce weight at any one time.
According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) between 2013 and 2016, 56.4 percent of women and 41.7 percent of men indicated they had been actively attempting to lose weight in the previous 12 months.
While fad diets might help you lose weight rapidly, they are not long-term solutions. Dropping 5 pounds for a summer vacation or a major event may give you the immediate results you want, but you won’t be able to keep the weight off in the long run.
Eating a well-balanced, healthful diet and keeping active are the greatest ways to do this. The good news is that meal planning might genuinely assist you in losing weight and maintaining it.
Taking the effort to plan your weekly meals and then making a comprehensive shopping list before heading to the supermarket is a fail-safe strategy to avoid buying random (typically unhealthy or processed) foods.
It’s m ore cost-effective to buy only the items you’ll need for the meals you want to prepare, and it’s simpler to avoid temptation if you don’t have any sweets or snacks on hand. Furthermore, eliminating processed, pre-prepared meals helps you become more conscious of what you’re putting into your body.
Making your own food from scratch removes chemicals and hidden facts that may be found in packaged meals. Cutting down on the amount of fat and salt you consume, as well as avoiding artificial preservatives, are simple methods to improve your health.
Meal planning for the week might assist you in achieving your objectives more quickly. People who lose weight gradually and steadily (at a pace of 1 to 2 pounds per week) are more likely to keep it off, according to the CDC, and they should do it by eating healthily and exercising consistently.
Eating healthily entails avoiding deprivation of essential food categories and allowing some flexibility in one’s diet. Regular indulgences, such as takeout, dessert, or a favorite snack, are more likely to help people lose weight and keep it off for good.
By planning your meals, you can take control of your diet and build in the kind of treats that keep us all going whilst losing that extra weight – pound by pound, inch by inch.
4. You can try new things
We all enjoy trying new things, and when it comes to food, we’re at our most daring. Our sense of taste has the ability to transport us back to joyful memories and experiences such as holidays, vacations, and childhood. Though we enjoy comfort cuisine, we also enjoy experimenting with new tastes, recipes, and flavors.
Our eagerness to explore new things has resulted in the expansion of specialty stores and the accessibility of foreign items.
The components for Thai and Chinese cuisines are just as easy to get at your local grocery store as the fixings for mac and cheese. With the increasing quantity of recipes available online, we can now try new things. Despite this, many of us have a habit of preparing the same 5 or 6 meals and rotating them on a weekly basis.
Making a meal plan is an excellent method to make sure you explore different dishes and flavors. Sitting down once a week to make your weekly plan offers you time to look for new recipes and ideas, and creating a comprehensive shopping list ensures you don’t overlook anything.
There are literally hundreds of recipes on the internet to suit all preferences, from a range of cuisines. You’ll discover recipes to mix up your typical eating routine and push you to try new things, whether you’re an expert cook or just want to whip up a great supper in 20 minutes or less.
Stuck in a rut and wishing someone else would share the load of cooking with you? Encourage everyone to try new recipes or come up with fresh meal ideas, including the kids, and then get them engaged in the kitchen.
Allow children to assist with washing, preparing, and storing the fruits and vegetables for the week, and encourage them to inquire about the origins of food and how it should be prepared.
According to research from the University of Alberta, kids who assist cook at home are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables than kids who don’t. You’ll also be giving kids the skills they’ll need to be healthy and self-sufficient in college and beyond.
5. You’ll waste less
You’re not alone if you’ve come here because meal planning sounds like a smart way to avoid wasting food each week. According to studies, up to 40% of the food we buy in North America is thrown away, amounting to more than $160 billion each year.
However, the United States and Canada are not alone in this, since food waste is a worldwide problem.
According to the New York Times, we waste away 1.3 billion tonnes of food each year, or almost 1/3 of everything that is grown. Who is the main offender? Dairy products deteriorate faster and are discarded more frequently than any other food type.
As shops do their part to reduce food waste by selling otherwise rejected, deformed fruit and vegetables and altering best-before dates for different food kinds, it’s critical that we, as people, do our part.
It is good for the environment, but it is also good for us since we can save money and spend it on more important things. This is where meal preparation comes into play.
When done effectively, meal planning encourages you to buy food in a waste-conscious manner. Purchasing frozen fruit and vegetables is not only less expensive, but it also allows you to preserve them for longer and has a smaller environmental effect than purchasing out-of-season produce sent from abroad.
Investing time in washing and preparing fruit and vegetables means you are less likely to throw them away than if they fester in bags and punnets in the fridge.
Another pro tip: freeze any leftover, imperfect fruit and use it in smoothies; and add leftover vegetables to a pot with some stock for soup. Soup can also be portioned out and frozen for sick days, cold days, or hurried lunches
Planning your weekly meals will also make you feel more responsible for what you put into your body and how much you spend.
Those quick and simple lunches from Chipotle and Panera Bread may quickly mount up over the course of a week, but making your own versions can be a satisfying way to feed the entire family for several days.
Meats such as chicken, beef, pig, and other cuts of meat are among the most costly items on your weekly grocery list.
Challenge yourself to attempt new crock-pot recipes utilizing less expensive pieces of meat that are typically overlooked and discarded. Finally, think beyond the box. Recognize the goods you frequently buy and discard, and seek out alternatives.
Last but not least, use leftovers in creative ways – by transforming them into other main meals or healthy lunchbox options.
Meal planning can seem daunting before you start, but after a couple of weeks, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t start sooner. Get out that notepad, look up some new recipes, and step forward into a healthier, happier, and more organized way of eating.